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January 2016
Fasten your seat belts By Bill Schaefer

It’s the start of a new year, and that means this is our state of the industry issue. So what is the state of the potato industry?

In the short time that I’ve been editing this magazine (six years), I don’t know that I’ve witnessed so many important issues aligning at the same time within the potato industry.

Whether it’s biotechnology (think GMO), unmanned aerial systems (think drones), robotics and GPS technology, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, new specialty varieties coming to market, the potato bar challenge, GAP and sustainability or the huge and diverse impact of social media, or international consolidations of chemical manufacturers, everywhere you look we are witnessing a potential sea change of developments throughout the industry.

I believe that we are fast approaching some shape-shifting times in agriculture. So fasten your seat belts – we could be approaching some turbulence.

Every time I run into Dirk Parkinson, it seems that he’s just returned from another foreign land, testing the market or climate for U.S. seed. It could be Algeria, Morocco, Egypt or Russia that he’s just returned from to his home east of St. Anthony, Idaho, with the Teton Range rising on the Idaho- Wyoming border.

At the age of 31, he had to assume responsibility for the farm when his father died in a plane crash in 1996. It was a formidable task at first, but he and his brother, Doug, kept the farm going, and it’s grown and prospered since. Part of that growth is attributable to the global approach Parkinson has applied to marketing his seed.

Genetic modification is another story with global significance.

Here in the United States, we’ve been watching Simplot’s Innate generation one varieties receive regulatory approval from USDA, FDA and EPA. Now Simplot’s second generation Innate Russet Burbank, with stronger late blight resistance, awaits FDA and EPA regulatory approval for commercial production. I interviewed Kerwin Bradley about Simplot’s future Innate plans on Page 32.

Here’s to the new year and all that comes our way.





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